Lenten Station Church Pilgrimage 2012 Nears Its End

Catholic University Student Shares Her Experiences

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By Ann Schneible

ROME, MARCH 29, 2012 (Zenit.org).- With Holy Week fast approaching, the Station Church pilgrimage – which ends Wednesday of Holy Week – is coming to its conclusion.

All throughout Lent, priests, religious, and laypeople have woken up in the early hours of the morning to make their way across Rome to celebrate the Holy Mass in English at one of the Lenten Station Churches.

ZENIT spoke with Lauren Scharmer, 20, a student of Catholic University who has been taking part in the Lenten Station Church pilgrimage since the beginning of Lent.  A native of Lakeville, Minnesota, she is currently participating in CU’s semester abroad program in Rome.

ZENIT: You’ve been participating in nearly all of the station Masses this Lent.  Could you give an overview of your experience thus far?

Scharmer: The reason why I started going was because, as I’d been telling people that I was going to be studying abroad in Rome this semester, everyone said that I had to do the station churches. You get a lot of advice before you come. But as I got here, and started to understand all of the spiritual aspects of this city, and how historical everything is, and how far back you can trace everything, and all these opportunities, I knew that it was an opportunity that I wasn’t going to pass up.

When I told my friends that I’m here on this study abroad program, and that I was going to be going to these Masses, the general reaction was shock that I would be waking up that early every day to go. But I knew that it would be an important part of my experience here, and an important part of Lent for me.

I started on Ash Wednesday, and with the exception of when I was traveling for spring break, and a few times when I was sick, I’ve been to every Mass. It has proved to be probably one of the most humbling experiences I’ve had since I’ve been here, for a lot of different reasons, but it has also been one of the most awe inspiring experience that I’ve had here.

ZENIT: What has touched you about the station Masses that you have visited in this week, in particular?

Scharmer: For this week, in particular, as we’re coming in on the last full week of Lent before Holy Week, there’s almost a sense of urgency to squeeze as much out of Lent as you can. I’ve had a distinct awareness, which hasn’t necessarily been there for the rest of Lent, that this is really the time where I need to make the most of what I can.

As we’re preparing ourselves for Holy Week, and ultimately Easter, and for the joy that comes with that, these Masses this week have been a particularly humbling time, and I think it’s because I’ve made myself hyperaware of what’s around me. One of the amazing things when you’re at these Masses and, like I said, you feel in the urgency of this last full week, is looking around and seeing countless people, many people that you see day after day, who are doing the same thing, and what the world would call a sacrifice, we understand that we’re coming for the Sacrifice of the Mass. There’s a distinct sense at this time and as we’re drawing so close to Easter that this is it. This is what it’s about. And you have the sense that in the community, people are getting it, which is really good.

ZENIT: What do you hope to take from this experience when you return home to the States?

Scharmer: One of the biggest things that I want to retain are those two points that I’d touched on earlier The humility that you see in these people showing up, and ultimately that in humbling yourself for Mass, you’re forced to be humble when you look at what some people think of as comforts – like the waking up early, which these seminarians do every day, which puts everything into perspective when you realize they’d be up anyways. The sense of humility that, every time we come to Mass, that same sense of humility should be there, that our Lord is there, fully present, at every Mass: unchanging, unwavering. And if we can’t humble ourselves, we’ve missed part of the point.

Another thing is that I know it will be different going back to the States: you don’t have hundreds of ancient churches to go to on any given morning. But that sense of awe can transcend across any location and any place because ultimately it is the awe of the altar, the Sacrifice of the Mass.

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